Athlete of the Month - July 2015
Valent Sinkovic is currently one of the most popular rowers in the world. For the past year, he and his younger brother Martin have been dominating the men’s double sculls. They became World Champions and set a World Best Time together, being the first double to ever go under six minutes. This year at World Rowing Cup II in Varese, Italy, they crossed the line in gold six seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
Before racing the double Valent was part of the Croatian World Champion and Olympic silver medal men's quadruple sculls. At 26 years old Valent has already proved his rowing prowess and World Rowing is delighted to have him as our Athlete of the Month for July.
World Rowing: How did you discover rowing?
Valent Sinkovic: My older brother Matija saw it on TV and he tried rowing first. Martin joined right after him. I played football at the time, but after a leg injury stopped me playing football, I started rowing as well. When I sat in a boat, I can say it was love at first sight!
WR: You and Martin are only one year apart and have been racing together internationally since 2008. What is your relationship like when you are not rowing or training together?
VS: It's a typical brotherly relationship. We hang out a lot and spend a lot of time together outside of the boat and we are a big support to each other. We have some kind of a special synergy, sometimes all it takes is one look to know what the other one has on his mind.
WR: You were delayed in 2015 with entering international competition due to a rib injury. How has this impacted your training?
VS: I was the one with the injury. It prevented me from rowing for three weeks, but I was cycling on a daily basis. We didn't skip a lot of practices. I'm only sorry we couldn't row at World Rowing Cup I and at the European Rowing Championships. It took us some more time to get the yellow shirt back - hahaha!
WR: Last year, you and Martin became World Champions in the double and also set a World Best Time. Were you expecting this to happen?
VS: I must be honest, we were hoping to become World Champions because we won both World Cup regattas we attended, so we were bursting with confidence at the World Rowing Championships. But we weren't thinking about the record that much before the competition. Only before the semifinals did we see that the course was fast and that we could set a new record, but it never crossed our minds that we could go below six minutes. When we saw the monitor it was an amazing moment, we couldn’t believe it. It is a feeling that cannot be put in words!
WR: Would you say that being brothers gives you an advantage in the boat?
VS: We think it's an advantage. Being brothers makes it very easy to understand each other in the boat and out of the boat. We know exactly what the other one is thinking and there are no misunderstandings. We also know that both of us will always give our absolute best for the other.
WR: What would you say are the strengths and weaknesses that complement you and Martin?
VS: Martin's strength is definitely his physical endurance and always being relaxed, in a positive sense, I mean. His weakness is that he is sometimes really stubborn. My strength is that I have a good sense of the boat and I can get the best out of us, I'm a perfectionist in the boat which is sometimes positive, but sometimes it is also a weakness because I get nervous if everything isn't perfect. My brother always makes fun of me that I'm as sensitive as a flower and prone to injuries. :)
WR: You and Martin won your first medal together at the 2008 World Rowing Under 23 Championships, winning silver in the men’s double sculls. How did this medal inspire you for the future?
VS: It felt really special winning my first medal with my brother. That World Championship was more of a confirmation that someday we could reach the top. We always thought that one day we could fight for the world's brightest medals.
WR: In 2009 you embarked on your adventure in the quad with Martin as well as David Sain and Damir Martin, winning gold at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships. What were the crew dynamics like in the quad?
VS: Our relationship was great both in the boat and off the water. Over the years we took different paths, but we are still on good terms.
WR: At London 2012 you won Olympic silver in the quad. What are your memories of this first Olympic experience?
VS: The memory of London is magnificent. The Olympics are truly the peak to any athlete and it was really special to live through all of that. When you're a part of the Olympic Family and you experience that spirit, understanding, harmony, fair play and positive atmosphere, you realise what the biggest and most beautiful values of sport are, and why you do sports!
WR: How would you compare rowing in the double and quad? What do you like most about each boat?
VS: The double and quad are very similar rowing disciplines. They both require speed, aggressiveness and precision. I like the speed in the quad and the fact that you need to settle everything as a team, there isn't much individuality. What I like about the double is that it's easier to reach a conclusion because there are less people. Also, you influence the speed of the boat a lot more.
WR: What is your favorite medal so far and why?
VS: My favorite medal is the first world gold from New Zealand (2010 World Rowing Championships) and the gold with my brother in the double. New Zealand was where I won my first gold, it was really special and emotional. The double was special because I shared it with my brother and because our whole family was there cheering for us.
WR: What is a typical training session at the gym like for you?
VS: High intensity interval training with functional exercises like dead lifts, kettlebell, sled pushing, TRX, medicine ball, etc. Mostly we do muscle endurance and also some strength training.
WR: Besides gym training, what are other ways that you cross-train?
VS: Besides the gym we cycle a lot, jog in the winter and do a lot of cross-country skiing. My favorite is cycling on steep hills on longer routes. Recently we started to do Pilates with a private trainer. Asja has extensive coaching experience even with NATO soldiers.
WR: What is your best 2000m erg score to date?
WR: How much time do you spend on the water every day?
VS: We do two-hour water practices twice a day. When we have gym work and cycling, we do one training session on the water and two in the gym. Usually Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we do long-distance training for two hours. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday we are doing some pieces on water.
WR: When you are not rowing or training, how do you like to spend your time?
VS: I mostly like to hang out with friends, spend some time with my parents, watch a good movie or play video games. Nutrition is very important. I am very happy to prepare meals. Lately what relaxes me a lot is the time I spend in the kitchen, preparing food for myself and friends. It is far from culinary perfection, but I think I’m on the right track.
WR: What is something that can always be found in your fridge?
VS: You'll always find Red Bull and different kinds of fruit, during the summer definitely watermelon.
WR: If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
VS: A dolphin! Moving fast in the water, playful but very intelligent and sociable, protective over the weaker.
However, for a few days now I’ve been reading about the possibility of polar bears becoming extinct due to climate change and the ice caps melting. I cannot begin to describe how sad I am because of that, but also angry at the fact that us as human beings are capable of causing something like that. We create new inventions every day, we are developing and progressing, creating systems to make our lives easier but in the process we are neglecting the most basic thing of all – nature and ourselves, what we started from and what we live off. The polar bears will be gone tomorrow, some other species the day after that and in a while there obviously isn’t going to be a human race. We’ll ruin ourselves with our careless disregard. We need to act. We need to do something. Nature created us, it feeds us and keeps us alive. We need to help it and protect it to protect ourselves. A single saved drop of water, a single recycled piece of paper or a plastic bottle are a big step. Honestly, I am scared for the future and for what we’ll do if we keep this up. I want my children to row in clear blue rivers and lakes surrounded by green and filled with life.
WR: How do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
VS: I definitely want to pass my rowing and sports experience on to new generations, I want to help the world get the new ‘golden brothers’, but mostly I want to inspire younger generations to get into sports and develop the athletic spirit, a spirit of optimism based on fair play and equality and on respecting differences and different possibilities and opportunities. I want them to get the best values out of sport and share them in their community and make the world a better place to live in.